Lucy Bannerman

The Times

The conflict over transgender rights has been real test for journalism. What is the ‘correct’ language to use and who decides? Whose rights matter most? Get it wrong, the activists and trolls are after your blood. Get it right, and some of them get angrier still.

Her steady stream of exclusives has broken the taboo around the topic, winning many new - often female - subscribers to the paper, and forcing rivals to follow up her reports. These stories have also helped embolden many women who were previously afraid of voicing their opposition to activists who demanded there should be “no debate.” Her Saturday essay on “What is a woman?” highlighted how activist groups have used secrecy and censorship to bend public policy to their advantage. The essay was basically an argument in favour of journalism itself: no topic should be taboo. Scrutiny is not bigotry. Sunlight is always a helpful disinfectant. No platforming and ‘no debate’ lead to uglier conflicts and poorer arguments that disadvantage everybody. The essay prompted a huge response from readers. It informed not by arguments between strangers on social media, but by years of observing first-hand how the conflict over trans rights was actually playing out in real life in a series of exclusive reports for The Times: in local councils, in the Girl Guides, the Scouts, in prisons, in youth hostels and hospitals. It was also informed by Lucy’s investigation of Stonewall, which was the first newspaper investigation to expose how the charity used its diversity schemes to secretly rewrite the policies of public bodies. Lucy has had to build up trust with sources who are terrified of being hounded out of their jobs or vilified online. When she first exposed whistleblowers’ warnings that the NHS’s main gender identity clinic for young people was failing its vulnerable patients, her investigation prompted protesters to picket the entrance of The Times, with yells of “transphobia”. It took months to get the story of what was really happening inside the Tavistock and several more to gain the trust of several former clinicians to blow the whistle. This year, that report was completely vindicated by Dr Hilary Cass, whose independent review found that young people who identified as transgender did indeed deserve better care. The Tavistock clinic was forced to close over precisely the same safety fears highlighted in Lucy’s investigation. Finally, Alex’s story makes it all real. It’s very rare to hear a personal account of what it’s actually like to be on these controversial drugs, and to understand their daily impact from the point of view of a transgender teenager. Alex’s moving testimony brought a new dimension to a divisive debate. The aim of all these stories is to understand the real-life consequences of identity politics and why it is so important they are discussed and scrutinised.